Ernest Robinson - Leftovers

After Jesus fed the multitudes, the leftovers were likely used to feed Him and His disciples for some time, as we know that Jesus was not working miracles to feed Himself.  So the leftovers were possibly used for a more noble purpose than all the rest, because later we see that many of the multitude that followed were told that they were only following for the sake of the bread and fish.


I thought of the "leftovers" in God’s kingdom - those who have become leftovers of life for Jesus’ sake and for their testimony’s sake.  One might wonder why Mary and Martha were not married…but we only need to look around at many of our young sister saints to understand.  Not all have the health for the work, and not all are called for the work.  Many would like to settle down, but because God has the first place in their lives, they are not just going to settle for anything that wears trousers and says it is professing.  They would want someone whom they could be proud to introduce to any worker or saint as their husband; one who would help to build a Godly home, one who would be a worthy father bringing up the children in the fear of God.  It has been said, "Some women marry males, but they are certainly not men."  James Johnston says, "Some women choose a husband in a worse light than they would choose a hat."  We know only too well that there are not just too many such worthy young men eligible, as usually the qualities that a noble young woman would look for are the very qualities that cause the young man to think of the work.  So it’s not hard to understand Mary and Martha’s position.  However, such young sisters are also human, and they would see a happy young professing couple, perhaps a meeting in the home…all so commendable and right in the sight of God…and they would look at those cute little children, and secretly feel a stab of pain deep down inside and feel, "I am just one of the leftovers of life."


In one place where I was there was a very nice young brother, and a very nice young sister, and they found each other.  One day, they were together with several other saints and were being teased and enjoying it…all so happy!  But in the company, there was a young sister who knew that such a day would never come for her.  However, she was also teasing the young couple and laughing just as brightly as the rest.  But there was one fleeting moment when she obviously thought no one was looking…and I didn't miss the flash of pain in her eyes.  How I admired that sister!  "Behind many a smiling face there lies a broken heart."  I wish I could hide my feelings so well!


In our country, there is a man for whom I have the deepest respect.  When he professed, his wife left him with three little children.  So he became one of the "leftovers."  All the years, he has kept his life free and struggled on bringing up those children, washing their clothes, and cooking their food after coming from work, and teaching them to love and revere God.  No one can know the bitter struggles that must have been in his heart many a day; the temptations, the daily self-denial of human nature.  He is a fine man and could easily have found another wife, but he wanted to keep within the will of God.  Only God knows what it cost him, and only God knows what the reward will be!


In America, there was a woman whose husband left her because of the truth, and she was left with three boys to bring up.  This was made extra difficult because some of the boys resented the truth, feeling that it was the cause of their father leaving, and they also resented the meetings which had been placed in their mother’s home.  But she persevered and God was with her, and today one of those boys is in the work, and there are countless numbers of people rejoicing in the truth and thanking God for him.  His name is Andrew Abernethy.  But behind the scenes, there was a noble mother who had the willingness and the courage to face being one of the leftovers of life for Jesus sake.


There are other circumstances which can cause one to be numbered among the leftovers. Those who are there know it only too well.  Workers, of course, are not leftovers.  They have chosen gladly to spend their lives in the work and their lives are full.


Harry Brownlee told of a bach he and his companion had near a railway line.  One day, they were reading in the newspaper about the enormous cost of the war in Vietnam, how many millions of dollars every week.  Just then a train passed, and as they looked out they noticed that it was all painted grey, and no one was looking out of the windows.  Later, they found out that it was a train filled with corpses of soldiers killed in Vietnam, being taken to be buried.  Harry said to his companion, “We have just been reading about the cost of the war in dollars, but there goes the real cost…wives left without husbands, children left without fathers, parents left without sons.” Some of our friends think they are making quite a sacrifice by not having TV and foregoing other things of the world, but if ever you are tempted to think it is costing you so much, just stop for a moment and think of the price being paid by the leftovers, every day, all their lives.  There is the real cost!


We know the old story of the man in ancient Rome who was accused and convicted of a crime he didn't commit.  He was put in prison with a heavy iron weight chained to his leg, meaning he had to drag it wherever he went for over a year.  He got to hate that weight and often sighed "Oh! If only it were lighter!"  But when he was finally found innocent, the judge ordered that in compensation he was to be given gold in the same weight as the iron he had dragged around all that time.  Can you guess what the man sighed then? "Oh, if only it were heavier!"  As we said, only God Himself knows what it is costing those who are facing the loneliness and heartache and secret struggle against temptation so as to preserve their testimony - those who have become leftovers of life - and when many of us see the reward they will get one day, we will say, "Why didn't God give me a chance too?" But probably we will have to be told, "I would have, but I knew you couldn't take it."


We may wonder about those who were entrusted with this experience, but made shipwreck.  I do believe God gave them the experience because He knew they could have taken it…and isn't it an awful tragedy that they didn't!


It seems that the Lord Jesus felt especially at home in Mary and Martha’s home in Bethany.  We read that He was a "man of sorrows, acquainted with grief" and today still no doubt the Lord Jesus feels especially at home in the hearts of the "leftovers"…those who know the taste of hidden pain and secret loneliness.  Some are callous and insensitive and ignorant enough to refer to our noble young sisters in this position as "old maids."  It makes me think of those well-known words, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."


As I said in the beginning, most likely those leftovers, after the multitude was fed, were used for a much more noble purpose than all the rest.  Few of us probably realize what a noble place in this Kingdom is being filled by those who are valiantly facing the experience of being "leftovers of life" for Jesus sake.


One is so glad that the Lord Jesus did not forget the leftovers.


** as spoken by Ernest Robinson at a convention.  I received this from Ernest while at Wando Convention in Korea 2001.  Since receiving this, it has been suggested this was Theodore Convention, 1978.